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Wednesday 24 Sep 2014

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FA Premier League reveals football changed forever by Pompey crisis in new BBC South documentary

The FA Premier League has admitted the Portsmouth crisis has changed the way top flight football will be run in England forever.

New rules will insist on officials meeting prospective new owners in person and seeing evidence of their business plans and financial backing.

It has also revealed it refused to meet a convicted fraudster who was in charge of Portsmouth finances in the weeks running up to a High Court winding up order in February this year.

The disclosures are made in a BBC South television documentary called Fit And Proper Persons? which goes out this Sunday on BBC One at 3.15pm.

Reporter Tony Husband and the team investigate a club which had four owners in six months and ran up debts now put at a staggering £138 million. The club is just days away from another appearance in the FA Cup Final at Wembley.

Portsmouth went from FA Cup winners in 2008 to become the first Premiership team to go into administration, since the league came into being 18 years ago. A nine point penalty helped relegate them to The Championship.

Commenting on Daniel Azougy, who was convicted of fraud in Israel and was in charge of Portsmouth's finances at the beginning of the year, Dan Johnson, Chief Spokesman of the FA Premier League, said: "It concerned us to the point where we refused to deal with him. We had several occasions where he turned up to meetings at this very building, Gloucester Place and he was shown the door. We said 'we're not dealing with you because you haven't subjected yourself to the Fit and Proper Persons' Test and we have deep underlying suspicions that you are behaving as a director or a shadow director' and we quite simply wouldn't deal with him."

On the new FA Premiership 'Means and Abilities Test' and how they dealt with Ali Al Faraj when he became owner Mr Johnson added: "We never met Ali Al Faraj. We met his brother Ahmed Al Faraj, and we met his representatives, but as I say it's a narrow test the Fit and Proper Persons' Test. It's a legal entitlement test, so you can pass without actually having been met. We've remedied that. We will meet new owners going forward, and I think that's something we've taken from the Portsmouth situation."

With interviews with those inside the club, the BBC South documentary delves into the circumstances that saw a once top flight club capable of bringing home cup glory reduced to a financial ruin.

In an interview for the programme former Portsmouth owner, Milan Mandaric, now chairman of Leicester, says: "If you ask me, 'if I knew what I know today, would I sell the club?' – no, I would not!"

Discussing players' wages former club Chief Executive, Peter Storrie, comments: "It was a fire fighting situation to keep the club alive, because as far as I was concerned that was a No. 1 priority. What we did was that we sold the players and we kept everybody happy, we didn't miss players' salaries, you know we didn't miss payments. We may not have been able to pay them all, but we paid a sum of money to everybody to keep everybody happy."

On the Al Faraj consortium buying the club Storrie adds: "I met them in a restaurant in London through a third party – pure chance meeting – and they moved very, very quickly. I was really quite surprised. A lot of people called them my consortium. They weren't. I just met them and I introduced them to Sacha and Sacha's people and helped them to put the deal together."

The programme also carries the first television interview with the Israeli lawyer, Daniel Azougy, who admits the consortium led by Ali Al Faraj failed to carry out further due diligence before buying the club in October 2009.

Tony and the team also hear from Professional Footballers Association boss, Gordon Taylor, who gives his view on the late payment of players' wages: "They were being misled because it was almost impossible to find out the reality of situation."

"The more (the PFA) enquired, the worse it got. There were too many people involved there – far too many chiefs and perhaps not enough Indians."

Fit And Proper Persons? will be broadcast this Sunday 9 May on BBC One in the south. It will also viewable on Sky Channel 984 and BBC iPlayer.

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